Tilera Talks 100-Core Processor

Tilera, which already has 36- and 64-core processors on the market, is announcing its third-generation products, Tile-Gx, which includes plans for a 100-core processor. The chip will appear in 2011. Tilera officials hope the high-core count in its processors will help give the company traction in a space dominated by Intel and AMD, which currently are looking at eight-core processors.

At a time when Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are talking about six and eight cores on a chip, five-year-old Tilera is unveiling plans for a 100-core processor.

Tilera, which over the past two years has rolled out chips with 36 and 64 processing cores, on Oct. 26 is announcing its third-generation processor family, which not only will drive its architecture higher with a 100-core product, but also downward into the 16-core range.

In addition, Tilera's Tile-Gx family of chips also will include new versions of its 36- and 64-core products.

"It's very scalable," Bob Doud, director of marketing for Tilera, said of the new processor family. "We can scale both up and down with the performance."

Tilera's architecture got its start in 2002 as a project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology funded through the federal DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) program and the National Science Foundation, leading to the company's founding in 2004 to commercialize the architecture. Tilera came out with its first 64-core processor in 2007.

That architecture includes Tilera's iMesh two-dimensional interconnect, which essentially puts a communications switch on each core and eliminates the need for an on-chip bus, and its Dynamic Distributed Cache system that allows for the local cache on each core to be shared coherently across the chip. Combined, the two features let the chips to scale almost linearly wit ht e number of cores, according to Tilera officials.

New with the Tile-Gx family will be support for 64-bit computing, integrated DDR3 memory controllers, on-chip MICA (Multistream iMesh Crypto Accelerator) engines offers up to 40 Gbps encryption and 20 Gbps compression processing. The chips will range in speed up to 1.5GHz.

Tilera officials say the 10-core chip will offer four-times the performance of any current processor on the market, and ten times the compute efficiency of Intel's upcoming 32-nanometer "Westmere" chip.

Overall, the Tilera architecture offers businesses lower system costs, a smaller footprint, better power efficiency and a higher throughput than traditional processors. Company officials are looking at cloud computing, converged data, voice and multimedia environments and wireless products as key markets for their products.

The 64-bit capabilities opens up possibilities in the HPC (high-performance computing) space as well, Doud said.

All that said, it will be a while before the 100-core processor hits the market. Tilera will start sampling the new 36-core Tile-Gx chip in the fourth quarter, followed by the 16-core soon afterward. The 100-core chip will come in the first quarter of 2011, followed by the 64-core processor later that year.

Tilera also is trying to make it in a market that is dominated by Intel and AMD, both of which are working on rapidly growing the number of cores on their processors and expanding the reach of their architectures.

"Obviously Intel is certainly entrenched in this area," Doud said.

However, some top-tier system makers have shown interest in Tilera's products, and at least one has some Tilera processors running on test systems, he said.

Tilera also is continuing to get interest from the investment community. Quanta Computer announced Oct. 12 that it was investing $10 million in Tilera, which is expecting the money to be part of a $25 million round of funding. Quanta also announced that it is using Tilera's 64-core chip in products it's developing for cloud computing environments in data centers.

In September, network intelligence provider Qosmos announced support for Tilera's TilePro64 embedded chip.